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Kathy Marshack News

Is ADHD Really a Disease or Is It a Symptom of Something Else?

Friday, December 19, 2014


thrill seeking on the rollercoaster releases dopamine which those with ADHD wantThis question was recently discussed by Richard Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He’s looking at the alarming increase in ADHD diagnoses and is trying to determine the best treatment options.

Here’s a snippet from his NY Times article, A Natural Fix for ADHD:

“Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking…Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating.

To compensate, they are drawn to new and exciting experiences and get famously impatient and restless with the regimented structure that characterizes our modern world. In short, people with A.D.H.D. may not have a disease, so much as a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture. From the standpoint of teachers, parents and the world at large, the problem with people with A.D.H.D. looks like a lack of focus and attention and impulsive behavior. But if you have the “illness,” the real problem is that, to your brain, the world that you live in essentially feels not very interesting.”


Novel experiences release dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain, which varies in sensitivity from person to person. And according to research done by Dr. Nora D. Volkow, a scientist who directs the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with ADHD have less sensitive receptors, so it takes more stimulation to satisfy them. Hence they are more easily bored. Changing their environment and helping them to modify their behavior has helped many to “outgrow” ADHD as Dr. Friedman’s article attests. I encourage you to read his entire article.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon and Washington have some of the highest percentages of children diagnosed with ADHD (9.1% to 11%) yet they receive a significantly less amount of treatment (3.15 to 5%). Most alarmingly however, is that nationwide more than 10,000 toddlers, ages 2 and 3, are given ADHD drugs! I can’t help but wonder what the far-reaching consequences of this will be.

Medication is not the only option for treatment of ADHD. Psychotherapy has proven to be very effective in helping children with ADHD. I encourage you to consult with a mental health professional and explore these healthier, alternative treatments for ADHD. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: ADD and ADHD.



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